It isn’t entirely the fault of the Obama administration, but more and more Americans have, of late been falling out of the middle class. Joel Kotkin explains that they are becoming a new American proletariat.
Kotkin adds that, under the Obama administration, the decline has accelerated.
The biggest issue facing the American economy, and our political system, is the gradual descent of the middle class into proletarian status. This process, which has been going on intermittently since the 1970s, has worsened considerably over the past five years, and threatens to turn this century into one marked by downward mobility.
The decline has less to do with the power of the “one percent” per se than with the drying up of opportunity amid what is seen on Wall Street and in the White House as a sustained recovery. Despite President Obama’s rhetorical devotion to reducing inequality, it has widened significantly under his watch. Not only did the income of the middle 60% of households drop between 2010 and 2012 while that of the top 20% rose, the income of the middle 60% declined by a greater percentage than the poorest quintile. The middle 60% of earners’ share of the national pie has fallen from 53% in 1970 to 45% in 2012.
This group, what I call the yeoman class — the small business owners, the suburban homeowners , the family farmers or skilled construction tradespeople — is increasingly endangered. Once the dominant class in America, it is clearly shrinking: In the four decades since 1971 the percentage of Americans earning between two-thirds and twice the national median income has dropped from 61% to 51% of the population, according to Pew.
Roughly one in three people born into middle class-households, those between the 30th and 70th percentiles of income, now fall out of that status as adults.
Undoubtedly, there are many reasons why this is happening. And there are a number of different policy solutions, outlined well by Kotkin.
And yet, combining Kotkin’s column with the news about how American schoolchildren, like their British counterparts are falling behind in math (see previous post), we should consider the possibility that Americans have been poorly trained and educated.
If Americans lack the skills or the discipline required to add value to an economic enterprise, they will lose out to people who do have them.
How much can a child who lacks math and technology skills contribute to the economy? How much can a child who lacks confidence and competitive drive advance himself in the marketplace?
If Americans cannot contribute enough to justify their earning the wages that will place them in the middle class, they will become a new proletariat.
How did it happen?
In part, it happened because learning has been dumbed down. It was more important to ensure that mediocre students not feel badly about being mediocre than to encourage them emulate children who were doing better.
The smarter children are bored; they learn to hate school; they will never live up to their potential.
Moreover, if hard work is not rewarded, why work hard? If everyone gets a trophy, why learn the discipline that produces excellence?
How else did it happen?
In the past, math and science were domains where boys excelled. One day, our educrats decided that the disparity of aptitude and achievement was a sign of sexism. They responded by ignoring boys in class in favor of girls. They wrote the curriculum to make math and science ore girl-friendly.
Apparently, the more girl friendly math does not compete well with the math they teach in Asian countries.
Ironically, these policies are based on gender stereotypes. They are not merely denying boys the ability to develop their skills at math and science. They are refusing to allow girls to learn how to compete.
Believing that girls prefer to cooperate and to join together in circles of caring, they insist that learning become a cooperative enterprise where no one should do so well that he makes other children feel bad.
Evidently, the message has not reached Asia. Besides, the Tiger Mom brought up two daughters. She had no problem demanding of her daughters rigorous discipline and a strong work ethic..
In the name of girlifying math and science education our pedagogues seem to have deprived both girls and boys of skills they need to compete in the world economy.
The result: a feminized American workforce is competing in the global economy against children who have not chosen to suppress all signs of masculinity.
And of course, culture matters. Are children taught that America is a great nation that has achieved great things? Are they being inspired to become part of a successful nation? Are they taught that America has enjoyed great successes in building a nation, growing an economy, and winning wars?
Or are they taught that America is an organized criminal conspiracy, run by male patriarchs who have exploited the weak and the poor for their advantage? Are they taught that America is an imperialist, colonialist power that has robbed the rest of the world? Do they learn that the only good thing America has ever done is to feel empathy for those who have lost out and to give them charity?
If children are not taught pride in their nation they will not have pride in their own work. If they feel demoralized by a systematic attempt to teach them how to diminish and demean their their nation, they will transfer the skill to themselves. If they believe that success is a crime, they will never be able to develop their talents.
The result: a new American proletariat.